Monday, November 19, 2018

Public Meeting (London 24/11)

‘THE ARROW OF TIME: SOCIALIST CONSCIOUSNESS'

Guest Speaker – Vahe Stephanian

2PM – 24TH NOVEMBER 

Quaker Meeting House, 
20 Nigel Playfair Avenue, 
London W6 9JY


Diabetes and Capitalism

Nicole Holt-Smith arrived at pharmaceutical giant Sanofi’s research facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Friday carrying a powerful testament to the consequences of price gouging essential medicines under a for-profit health system: the ashes of her son, Alec.  The parents were flanked by dozens of local diabetes patients, doctors, nurses and students affiliated with the Right Care Alliance, a grassroots group fighting for a health care system that puts people over profits. 
Alec Raeshawn Smith lived with Type 1 diabetes and lost health coverage under his parent’s insurance plan when he turned 26. He died last year after attempting to ration his insulin supply by cutting doses to make it last longer. Along with Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, Sanofi is one the three major insulin manufacturers accused of gouging diabetes patients worldwide who use the blood-sugar regulating hormone as a prescription drug in order to stay alive.
“Sanofi’s high prices are killing people like my son Alec,” Smith-Holt said in a statement before the action. “I’m sick of them listening to my story and then doing nothing. I’m not asking them to lower prices anymore, I’m demanding it.”
Insulin products costs very little to manufacturer, but prices have skyrocketed in recent years. A vial of insulin that once cost around $25 now goes for about $400 to $500. The activists are demanding that Sanofi immediately lower the price of its insulin products by 90 percent. Recent research showing that the cost of manufacturing insulin is so low that companies like Sanofi could drastically reduce their prices and still enjoy a 500 percent retail markup. Insulin has been around for a century and costs about $5 to manufacture, so nobody should die from lack of access.
 Globally, half of the people who need insulin can’t reliably get access to it. Under a for-profit health system, even people who have health coverage can find medicine unaffordable.With 6 million people in the US insulin-dependent, nearly 40 percent of Americans are uninsured or facing high deductibles that leave their medicine costs uncovered.
 For Alec, this meant that his insulin and supplies cost almost $1,300 a month. People with Type 1 diabetes need to use insulin to survive on a regular basis, making them vulnerable to price gouging.  Standing between people living with Type 1 diabetes and the insulin that keeps them alive are a number of wealthy corporations that value profit margins over human health. 

An end in sight?

Houthis announced they would stop their "drone and missile strikes" against Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and their allies in Yemen.

They said they were ready for a broader armistice if "the Saudi coalition wants peace" in a Tuesday statement signed by Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the rebels' Supreme Revolutionary Committee.

https://www.dw.com/en/yemen-houthis-seek-truce-with-saudi-coalition/a-46349312

Workers need toilets

Thousands of people do not have access to basic toilet facilities in their workplace in the UK, according to the major union, Unite.
 It had uncovered evidence of staff at branches of big high-street banks being required to urinate in buckets, and construction sites failing to provide any female toilets.
It said problems experienced by many UK workers on a daily basis potentially had serious health risks and could exacerbate many conditions, but that employers were continuing to breach health, safety and welfare duties by not providing proper facilities.
Bus drivers had been denied toilet breaks for up to five hours, and workers in call centres for big financial institutions were told to log in and out to take a toilet break.
Unite said tens of thousands of workers across the UK suffer a lack of “toilet dignity”, where they are either not provided with proper toilets or have restrictions placed upon them in using facilities,
The union said it was demanding that employers take action to ensure that workers had decent toilets without unnecessary or officious restrictions. It said that the worst practices it had found were in bus and lorry driving, construction, warehousing, agriculture, and the banking and finance sector. Women, in particular, were likely to suffer, said Unite, which launched a “period dignity” campaign in September to highlight issues in workplaces.
Gail Cartmail, Unite’s assistant general secretary, said the examples were “simply staggering”, adding: “It is clearly deeply humiliating for the workers who are being denied toilet dignity. Employers have got absolutely no excuse for ensuring toilet dignity and if they fail to do so they should be prosecuted by the HSE (Health and Safety Executive). Unite will not be passive on this issue if workers are denied toilet dignity we will name and shame the guilty parties.”

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Socialism is Green

Many ecologists use 'we are all doomed' arguments to try and stampede people into support for reformism. the most convincing form the 'end of civilisation' panic takes is the idea of a looming climate change crisis that will make life as we know it impossible. Some environmentalists view climate change far from being the end of capitalism or civilisation but as an opportunity for profit and restructuring. Capital however reluctantly, is gearing up to make profits out of developing alternative energy sources on the one hand and on the other of accessing plentiful but more destructive ways to extract fossil fuel supplies. The second path, of course, makes global warming and other forms of pollution a lot worse but that's not likely to stop the capitalist class. The switch-over from fossil fuels is likely to provide an opportunity to make profits for capitalism rather then representing some form of final crisis. Many greens seem to forget that we live in a class society and that the population of the earth is divided into a few people with vast resources and power and the rest of us. It is not a case of equal access to resources, rather of quite incredible unequal access. Those who will fall victim to a mass die-off would not include the rich such as Bill Gates because these people have the money and privilege to monopolise remaining supplies for themselves. Instead, the first to lose their lives in huge number would be the poor population of the mega-cities on the planet. Mass deaths are not something that destroys capitalism.  Like it or not large-scale destruction allows some capitalist to make a lot of money.
The challenge for the Socialist Party is in transforming civilisation to a form that is without the inequalities and inequities of power or wealth. This is not a new challenge, it has always been the challenge of socialists. The challenge is not simply the construction of a civilisation that keeps everyone's standards of living at the level they are now. The challenge is raising everyone's standard of living but doing so in a manner that is reasonably sustainable. There is nothing inherently wrong with technology, it just depends on how it is applied – in a free society they can be used to increase freedom (from onerous toil, or physical disability etc.). Only the further development of technology coupled with a revolution that eliminates misery across the planet can deliver this. The major problem is not simply that capitalism has been happy to leave a huge proportion of the world's population in poverty. The problem is also that development has been aimed at creating consumers for future products rather than providing what people need. As long as capitalism exists it will continue to wreak environmental havoc as it chases profits. We can only fix the planet by building a mass movement that will not only overthrow capitalism but also introduce a class-free society. And on the way, we'll need to find ways to halt and even reverse some of the worst of the environmental threats capitalism is generating. Green capitalism is a pipe dream - it offers no way forward in the struggle for a sustainable free society. To protect the planet we do not get rid of technology, only of the wasteful and destructive system of capitalism which places profit above all else.

Every socialist wants to live in harmony with the earth. We seek to see people well-fed, intelligently educated, and the progressive reduction of working hours that each individual has to do so more time can be devoted to pursuing our passions etc. This is the key to creating a healthy human society. The Socialist Party believes as the basic life-support systems of this planet begin to fail, people will eventually realise that it's the 'smash-and-grab' policies of capitalism and its politicians who either do nothing or not enough that got us into this situation. And then they will look to socialist solutions.

Humanity is at the Cliff's Edge


Environmentalists occupied five bridges in London on Saturday to highlight government “inaction” on climate change. The Extinction Rebellion group said more than 6,000 people blocked the crossings at Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster, Lambeth, and Southwark from around 10am.
“We represent a huge number of concerned citizens – scientists, academics, politicians, teachers, lawyers, students, children, parents, and grandparents,” said organiser Tiana Jacout.
George Monbiot joined the protest at Blackfriars bridge. “Something I have been waiting for, for a very long time is happening,” he said. “People are risking their liberty in defence of the living world in very large numbers. It is only when we are prepared to take such action that people begin to recognise the seriousness of our existential crisis.”  
A core feature of capitalism is that it constantly seeks to accrue profit and to carve out new markets.  Firms must compete to survive, while capitalist states must compete in military, economic and political arenas. Accordingly, many measures taken by countries and corporations ostensibly to mitigate climate change are cosmetically designed to placate public opinion. This is not to say that effective regulation of emissions is impossible under capitalism, for instance in 1956 the British government passed the Clean Air Act, which succeeded in much of its goals but today the problem is on a vastly greater scale requiring international regulation.  The lesser evil is a losing strategy. It paves the way for greater evils. Global warming has the ultimate potential to cause such a social collapse on a world scale.  It may be argued that the measures needed to tackle climate change are not somehow fundamentally incompatible with capitalist society. And it is quite easy to imagine a capitalism that lived off the profits based on the production and sale of renewable energy. There is indeed no reason in abstract why capitalism has to be dependent on fossil fuels and industries linked to them. Capitalism can profit from anything it can turn into a commodity – and the history of capitalism is one of showing a remarkable facility for turning just about anything imaginable into commodities. Nevertheless, the people who head the giant corporations, and who embody the logic of capitalism must expand as profit-seeking beasts and will resist with all their power anything which fundamentally threatens the current basis of profit and power. The social facts of capitalism were and are that capitalism is a system which inevitably causes bitter competition among the capitalists. Whether there is a case to be made that capitalism will survive because of its historic ability to adapt to new situations, with new technologies, raw materials or energy resources is an interesting debate. All are asking us to look away from the real target – capitalism. But socialists have proved that capitalism is the greatest threat to the planet’s well-being, and the greatest barrier to attempts to save it. It is capitalist relations of production, distribution and exchange which bring about hunger and poverty. Alternative technologies do not change the structure and effects of capitalism. It is only when we have a socialist society that real choices about energy sources, new technologies can be made.  
The struggle over climate change means wresting power and wealth out of the hands of those who have it now and the need for a society run in a fundamentally different and democratic way, one in which not profit but the needs of ordinary people and the future of the planet are at the heart of all action and policy. Such a transformation is what is meant by a revolution, and it is called socialism. Of course, such action needs to be international. The fight to halt climate change also has an inherent logic that goes beyond mere reforms within the existing structures of economic and political power.
We can only begin to address the problem of climate change if we understand the priorities of capitalism that we can see why mainstream politicians have failed to seriously reduce emissions. Capitalism is a barrier to reducing emissions, not simply because of the system’s historic reliance on fossil fuels, but also because of its reliance on market forces. Capitalism is an economic order barely compatible with human sustainability.
A global economy that requires constant expansion of production and increasing exploitation of finite resources and labour would have to be transformed at its roots. We’ll have to produce fundamentally differently and more equitably than we do now. Challenging the regime of capital based as it is on the cheapest and fastest exploitation of labour and nature and the endless expansion of exchange value is at the core of this necessary
transformation. By concentrating its labour resources economically on the real needs of people socialism would be able to stop vast numbers of wasteful and destructive jobs that are only necessary for a profit system. With the end of economic competition, socialism would not be bound to use the least costly methods of production, many of which are destructive of the environment.


Revolutionary Environmentalists

Eighty-five people have been arrested as thousands of demonstrators occupied five bridges in central London to voice their concern over the looming climate crisis. Demonstrators occupied Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster and Lambeth bridges. In the past two weeks more than 60 people have been arrested for taking part in acts of civil disobedience organised by Extinction Rebellion ranging from gluing themselves to government buildings to blocking major roads in the capital.

Gail Bradbrook, one of the organisers, explained, “Given the scale of the ecological crisis we are facing this is the appropriate scale of expansion. Occupying the streets to bring about change as our ancestors have done before us. Only this kind of large-scale economic disruption can rapidly bring the government to the table to discuss our demands. We are prepared to risk it all for our futures.” 

 Too many people do n’t have the slightest idea what overthrowing capitalism means.  Instead, they are intent to replace the present savage capitalist system with one in which markets still have their place. The Socialist Party, however, endeavours to bring home the true scale of the barbarity of global capitalism. Our view is that a sustainable social revolution — an economy that meets human needs without spoiling our soil, poisoning our water and air and emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That revolution is well within the capacity of existing technology, assuming appropriate action is taken by society. In the Socialist Party, we see the structures of society as resulting from social struggles – above all, the class struggle between exploiters and exploited over who controls, and who gets how much of, the surplus created by productive labour. In turn, those class structures strongly condition how well and for whose benefit existing technology is used, along with the possibilities of new scientific and technological developments. Civilisation of any kind depends absolutely on the ability to produce ample food. That means agriculture; contrary to some billionaire fools who salivate at the thought of trillion-dollar expenditures on human space travel, our species will not save itself by space travel and food grown on Mars. If the good news is that humanity is incredibly adaptable to practically every climate and diet available on earth, the bad news is that we’re at the top of the food chain, and therefore vulnerable to disruptive changes. Most obviously, stable temperature and rainfall necessary for growing crops. This reality affects not only farmers on the edge of subsistence in Africa or struggling family farmers in the drought-stricken North American western states or Australia. It pertains even to corporate Big Ag.

The struggle for socialism remains a necessity.  The longer the delay, the worse are the consequences and the greater the restrictions will be required for halting the carbon emissions that threaten our civilisation. To get to the core of the problem, one must take into account that it is profits which motivate the operations of the capitalist economic system. If we overlook this fact, if we believe that appealing to the good-will and humanitarian sentiments of the CEOs of global corporations will change the situation for the better, we will be building upon illusions. There's not a single example over hundreds of years where the rich and powerful have given way to the poor and the ordinary workers, just because they have been good at being subservient and submissive. The meek have never inherited the Earth. To appeal to the common sense of financiers and industrialists is to expect them to be able to abandon their lucrative profits from exploitation and oppression. It brings no results and only the purposeful self-activity of the people themselves can sweep away the polluters. Socialism as shared abundance, like the equality in a family. We've got the abundance - we just have to transform the way we distribute it.  We look forward to the day that humanity might create an agricultural system that provides food for people without exploiting their labour or expropriating their land.

 Climate change cannot be solved by piecemeal palliatives to the existing system of production and consumption. It requires a radical transformation of our social system. Marx described how blind the drive of capitalists to keep ahead of each other is. “In every stock jobbing swindle everyone knows that some time or other the crash must come, but everyone hopes that it may fall on the head of his neighbour. Apr├Ęs moi le deluge! [After me, the flood!] is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation.” 

What applies to the economy applies to the environment. Governments and individual businesses may be able to see what will be the result of the increasing greenhouse gases, but not one of them is going to sacrifice their own competitiveness to take the necessary effective countermeasures. It is not capitalism that is going to make alternative renewable energy sources real – it is the struggle against capitalism.  Capitalism is the enemy. The climate change deniers may have become a fringe-like reality, yet few ecologists are fighting for the liberation of humanity from this cancerous capitalist system.



Social Cleansing in England

Gypsies and travellers are being “hounded out” of parts of England as a growing number of local authorities impose sweeping bans to prevent them from settling on their land, in what has been described as a form of social cleansing. The latest government figures show there were 22,946 traveller caravans in England in January 2018, of which 87 per cent were on authorised land and 13 per cent on unauthorised land.
Families are being constantly ordered to move on, leading to mental health issues and disruption to children’s development, as a string of councils obtain wide high court injunction orders ban unauthorised encampments across entire towns. Lawyers, MPs and charities accused ministers of “ratcheting up” action against travellers on unauthorised sites without ensuring there was enough supply to address the “chronic shortage” of authorised encampments across the country.
Cuts to local authority funding, as well as an “increasingly hostile” attitude towards travelling communities, have led to an increasing number of councils seeking injunction orders over the past year, campaigners said. Injunctions have been obtained by 22 councils since the first one was granted by Harlow Council in Essex in 2015, with several other local authorities currently pursuing them in the courts.
Michelle Gavin, projects manager at support organisation Friends, Families and Travellers, said the use of injunction orders was ”insidious” and that the biggest issue was the lack of site provision nationally.
“The reason people are facing these blanket ban injunctions is because there are no new sites being built. The majority of people affected by these injunctions have nowhere to live, nowhere authorised on which to encamp, because there’s a chronic shortage across the country.With no sites being built and children being born with emerging need, you are literally waiting for people to die to be able to access any site provision.
Marc Willers, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers who represents gypsies affected by the wide injunctions, said the bans were leading to overcrowding on sites, as well as a deterioration in mental and physical health of traveller communities.
“When they turn up wherever these injunctions have been granted, unbeknownst to them, they will be hit with it and told you can’t park anywhere in this borough or within this area, so they’ve got to move on,” he said. "The problem is, if the next borough has the same injunction in place, they then have to move again, and there’s nowhere else for them to go. They’re being driven into the sea." The injunction orders are usually against “persons unknown”, meaning anyone found to occupy the land may be imprisoned, fined or have their property seized. Mr Willers said the injunction orders were rarely defended due to the broad definition of “persons unknown”, and fear among nomadic communities of coming forward to challenge them. 
He added: “Local authorities think it’s a swift and easy way of ensuring that they can move gypsies and travellers on, and they don’t need to go through a process of assessing the needs of individual families. Our argument against that is that this is inhumane. It’s a perfect storm for gypsies and travellers, and in the meantime some families are being moved from one borough to another, so those which are more humane in their treatment of gypsies and travellers tend to end up with more.”
Helen Jones, chief executive of Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange, said the injunctions meant all gypsies and travellers were being criminalised for the behaviour of a minority.
“It’s to control the behaviour of a very small number of people who are doing industrial fly-tipping and antisocial behaviour. We don’t deal with the criminal behaviour but we punish them all,” she said. “When the first and only face you see from the state is telling you to shift it’s no wonder these groups start to feel really excluded. It’s pushed people out and made them very invisible, and our politicians are taking a stance of protecting local voters from these ‘hordes’. It is social cleansing.”

Protecting our flora and fauna

Amid the worst loss of life on Earth since the demise of the dinosaurs, the agenda at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh could hardly be more important, but the spirit of international collaboration appears to be as much at risk of extinction as the world’s endangered wildlife. The United States has never signed up and Brazil is among a growing group of countries where new nationalist leaders are shifting away from global cooperation. Part of the reason for the low level of interest is that the last two major biodiversity agreements – in 2002 and 2010 – have been ineffectual. At Nagoya in Japan eight years ago, the 196 signatory nations to the CBD signed up to the Aichi biodiversity targets: to at least halve the loss of natural habitats, ensure sustainable fishing in all waters, and expand nature reserves from 10% to 17% of the world’s land by 2020. With two years left in the Aichi plan, the conference this year will show that many of the 20 targets have been missed. And even apparent progress in the creation of new protected areas is misleading because governments from Brazil to China have done little to police these “paper reserves”.

Coverage tends to centre on a few totemic species, such as lions, chimpanzees and pandas, rather than the collapsing ecosystems on which we depend. Yet there is growing evidence that the crisis of the natural world has become as much of a threat to humankind and is amplifying the chaos in the world’s weather systems.

Since 1970 humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles.  One in eight bird species is threatened with global extinction. Recent studies have also tracked calamitous declines of pollinating insects in the US, Costa Rica and Germany, promoting warnings of ecological Armageddon.


More important still, he said, was to consider trade and investment because it is no use wealthy countries donating a few hundred million dollars for conservation programmes in Africa, Asia and Latin America if they continue to promote trillion-dollar trades in commodities that accelerate the loss of habitats. As an example, he said the UK contributes money to efforts to protect the Cerrado savannah in Brazil yet at the same time imports vast quantities of the soya beans that are the biggest cause of deforestation in that region.
“It’s completely incoherent,” said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF , who was a delegate for the UK at the Nagoya conference. “We must tackle the drivers of biodiversity loss or we will be in same place in 10 years’ time.”
Izabella Teixeira, who led the Brazilian negotiating time in Nagoya, blamed the failure of the 2010 goals on the inability of conservationists to build ties with other sectors of government and business.
“There is no comprehensive political and economic constituency for this agenda as there is with the climate and now water,” she said. “We have to build a new policy bringing together science, environment and innovation. Industry is important for this. We need clearer rules for investing in biotechnology, and use of protected areas and infrastructure and logistics to enable business and research.”
“Many of the things we need to do to address biodiversity loss are exactly what we need to solve the climate problem,” said Matt Walpole of Flora and Fauna International. “We haven’t succeeded in getting across how important biodiversity is. It’s not just about a few endangered species. It is absolutely clear that what is happening to our ecosystems has an impact on humanity.”

Time for greens to think differently

Protesters blocked off five major bridges in central London as part of a so-called "rebellion day". Organisers said thousands gathered in central London to demand the government take greater action on climate change. Demonstrators occupied Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster and Lambeth bridges for most of the day.  6,000 people joined the protests and more than 85 were arrested.
Diana Jacout, of Extinction Rebellion, said the blockages were "not a step we take lightly" but "if things continue as is, we face an extinction greater than the one that killed the dinosaurs. We have tried marching, and lobbying, and signing petitions. Nothing has brought about the change that is needed."
"Climate change is so important, it's coming over so fast and nothing is being done," the participants said.
In face of capitalism failure to embrace renewable energy, unprecedented numbers of people are mobilising in climate marches and engaging in direct action, demanding in their words climate justice. The Socialist Party has a great deal to say about the causes of climate change and it exposes the irreformable nature of capitalism.  What is to be done about climate change? The global warming effect is caused by too much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels like coal, gas, and oil. The atmosphere traps the heat and when the planet becomes too hot, catastrophe looms. Capitalism possesses no self-correcting mechanism to fix the problem and geo-engineering suggestions have proven inadequate or too expensive to implement.  

The idea of an international legal system to regulate and moderate carbon emissions cannot be seriously considered when the law at the national level cannot be effectively enforced.  To hold such an illusion is to have an illusion in the ability of rival states to work together, much less the capacity of global corporations to circumvent regulations they believe conflict with their basic drive to make profits and to commodify relationships across increasing areas of life around the world. 

 The Socialist Party seeks a steady-state, zero-growth society (this refers to fundamental long-term tendency) understand the material limits that we must take into account, but capitalist accumulation is limitless in its demands. The green movement fails to recognise this anti-capitalist conclusion, to that extent it turns its back on socialism. The destiny of the world socialist movement is central to the future of ecology. The system of capitalism must be placed at the center of their analysis — its basic laws understood as guaranteeing the abuse of nature. 

 Capitalism should not be seen as a mere aberration to the otherwise “efficiency” of the hidden hand of the market. Agriculture u nder capitalism, for example, reveals the system’s destructive and contradictory relation with nature where  the laws of the market forbid it from guaranteeing global food security with disastrous consequences to food production of the expansion of industrialised farming to the detriment of  small producers being driven out of business, off the land and often into starvation.

The Socialist Party see the pressing need for a democratic,  transformation of society, and clear thinking about how this is to happen. It requires the linking of all the different resistances to one universal project of class emancipation so we can begin to build a socialist political struggle. Socialist politics is indispensable to any real struggle against the environmental crisis in how directly the crisis is related to the system of capitalist production. For many people, “capitalism” may be something eternal and of course, we’re not supposed to question capitalism, and this is why it’s off the table at every UN Climate Change Conference despite its direct effects on the environment, due to its inescapable drive towards growth. 

 Capitalism is an economic and social system in which the means of production are privately owned. The owning employing class appropriate the surplus product created by the workers. This appropriation leads to the accumulation of more capital, the amassing of wealth, further investment, and thus the expansion of capitalism. Commodities are produced for the purpose of generating profit and promoting accumulation. Within the capitalist system, individuals pursue their self interests against competition and impersonal forces of the market. 

 Carbon trading schemes, such as cap-and-trade and carbon offsets, and flat carbon taxes, are debates within the capitalist class over which is more effective may be boiled down to tensions between finance capital (favouring carbon trading) and industrial capital (favouring carbon taxes). In either case, corporations will not allow governments to curtail profits. “Green consumerism”, otherwise known as “lifestyle activism,” is based on the flawed notion that consumers are actually in charge of the market, that an enlightened public can simply choose to “buy green” or buy less. This view fails to recognise the role of marketing and its power to affect consumers’ behavior: it’s the corporations that are in charge, not the consumers.

 Green cuts in consumerism end up being at best, little more than a feel-good strategy.  The capitalist system is so addicted to consumerism that nothing short of a revolution can wean it away from their use. As long as Green activists hold to their goals they will confront capitalism’s structural barriers to their realisation. We should go about ending capitalism and we should replace it with the cooperative commonwealth.

 Wars are an inevitable consequence of capitalism and a major source of massive greenhouse gas emissions in addition to their more obvious destructive consequences for the countries that are invaded. The goal of peace cannot be reconciled with capitalism’s competitive struggle for markets, trade routes, resources, and cheap labour.  Inherent in the capitalist system is that capital does not simply exploit labour but exploits nature as well.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Climate War

Though you may not know it from the cable TV coverage, oil and gas corporations dumped millions of dollars into the US Midterm 2018 elections to defeat the major initiatives that could have slightly reduced fossil fuel use. Colorado’s local media effectively erased the term “climate change” from its election coverage. Some fossil fuel industry spokespeople are telling lawmakers that oil and gas companies really do want to work collaboratively on environmental issues. However, their behavior in the election proved that the industry is not operating in good faith. Oil and gas CEOs showed that they will gladly accelerate the climate crisis if doing so allows them to rake in more money.

In Colorado, where a drilling and fracking boom is happening in the middle of fast-growing suburbs. With oil and gas companies seeking to put noxious derricks and rigs near population centers, local activists backed a ballot measure called Proposition 112 that aimed to make sure new fossil fuel infrastructure is set a bit farther away from schools, hospitals, residential neighborhoods and water sources. The initiative was an angry response to a state government so awash in fossil fuel campaign cash that it has blocked legislation to merely allow regulators to prioritize the health and safety of residents when those regulators issue permits for drilling and fracking. According to an industry analysis, Proposition 112 would have left much of the oil and gas reserves near Denver accessible for extraction, but yes, it is true – at a time when climate scientists say we must keep fossil fuel deposits in the ground, there was a chance the initiative would have stopped some extraction.


The oil and gas industry could have looked across a Colorado ravaged by climate-intensified wildfires, droughts and floods and decided to accept the modest measure, knowing that the initiative is the absolute minimum that is required at this perilous moment. Instead, fossil fuel companies did the opposite: they poured $40m into opposing Proposition 112 and spreading insidious agitprop.
Despite scientists warning that fracked natural gas threatens to worsen climate change, oil and gas operatives in the state promoted cartoonishly dishonest claims that burning fossil fuel “is cleaning our air and improving health”. The industry managed to defeat the measure by outspending its proponents 40-to-1. In the process, fossil fuel companies’ scorched-earth campaign was a clear statement that in the face of an environmental cataclysm, oil and gas moguls will not accept even a tiny reduction in their revenues.
In Washington State, petroleum giants funneled $25m into defeating a proposal to require polluters to pay some of the costs of the climate change havoc they are wreaking. The measure, which would have assessed a $15  fee every ton of greenhouse gases they emit, was beaten with 56% of the vote after the industry’s ad campaign featured criticism from a former state attorney general – who viewers weren’t told now works at Chevron’s law firm. In all, $13m of the funding against the measure came from BP – a company that simultaneously claims to unsuspecting consumers that it supports a carbon tax.
In Arizona, you may have thought solar energy would be a fairly easy pitch. However, after the owner of the state’s major energy provider poured nearly $30m into the election, Arizonans soundly rejected a ballot initiative to force the utility to get more of its power from renewable sources.
In a single California county, the fossil fuel industry spent a whopping $8m to defeat a citizens’ initiative to ban new drilling and fracking.
The industry’s roughly $100m in campaign spending this year was not just about one individual election cycle. It was a shock-and-awe spectacle designed to intimidate any prospective campaigns, organizations, and movements that want to challenge the political supremacy of oil and gas – and some prominent Democrats in Washington seem to be cowering in fear.
The Hill newspaper surveyed lawmakers and major environmental groups, and found that “Democrats are unlikely to pursue major climate change legislation if they win the House majority, despite a growing body of evidence suggesting time is running out to address the issue.” The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, would only commit to reviving a moribund congressional committee to study the issue. The party recently rescinded its policy of rejecting fossil fuel campaign cash, as well as Democratic Representative Vicente Gonzalez of climate-ravaged Texas setting up a new Oil & Gas Caucus to promote the “economic benefits of fully harnessing the country’s natural resources”.  Former Bernie Sanders campaign aide Claire Sandberg tweeted: “Entire towns are burning to nothing in California. People are being incinerated alive in their cars attempting to flee. But a majority of Democrats still won’t reject fossil fuel money, and no one has put forward a climate plan that is remotely commensurate with the IPCC findings.”  
There are now 14 states that have the trifecta of Democratic control of the governorship and both legislative chambers. Those include major fossil fuel producing states such as Colorado, New Mexico and California. Democratic leaders in these states cannot claim that climate inaction is a product of Republican intransigence – the Democrats in these locales have uninhibited power.
Will those who truly care about the survival of humanity start treating this emergency as an actual emergency?

Palestinian Workers Protest Against the PA

The latest of several demonstrations against the law was held in the city of Ramallah on Monday, where thousands of workers staged a sit-in outside the Palestinian government headquarters.
"The government is not listening to our concerns," said Jack Syriani, a worker at the Jerusalem School of Bethlehem and member of the National Social Security movement (NSSM), which has headed opposition to the law. "We wanted to modify this law, but the government has refused to hear our concerns. Now we want it cancelled completely," he said. Others have called for the law to be frozen temporarily to allow for negotiations with the government.
The first phase of the law took effect on November 1 and consists of monthly employee and employer contributions to the newly established Palestinian Social Security Corporation (PSSC), for the management of retirement pensions, insurance for work-related injuries and maternity leave.
The social security law's aim is to provide social security coverage to private sector employees, who make up around 53 percent of the workforce in the occupied Palestinian territory. Employees who work more than 16 days a month are expected to contribute seven percent of their monthly salaries to the PSSC, while employers will contribute nine percent of salaries, plus an additional 1.6 percent to cover accident insurance. According to the law, workers will be able to apply for a retirement pension at age 60.
Syriani told Al Jazeera that the seven percent deductions would make life difficult for Palestinians who are already burdened by personal debt.
"If a worker is making 2,000 ($541) or 2,500 shekels ($677) a month, he already has to pay half of that to the bank to pay off loans," he said, adding that many Palestinians have become dependent on loans and often use the funds to purchase cars, homes, or other consumer goods. "On top of the loan payments, then the social security company also takes from his salary. How can he live with the remaining money? He will not be able to afford to provide a good life for his family or children." For Syriani, the main concern for Palestinians is the lack of a guarantee that the money will still be there when workers reach retirement age. He said workers are demanding that a "special court" be established to provide workers with legal recourse that can guarantee that their contributions to the social security fund are not lost. "What if something happens with the political situation? Who is responsible for ensuring that we don't lose our money? Nothing is ever guaranteed in Palestine," Syriani told Al Jazeera.
Fadi Arouri, a journalist who also works at an international humanitarian NGO, told Al Jazeera that the economic and political situation in the occupied territory makes the national social security system unviable.
"We are not stable," he said. "We are not controlling our own exports and imports. We don't have our own currency. Our government is financed by international aid. If something happens, no one is going to save the people, and the national security law will not be valued in a country under debt," he added. "We don't even control our own economy. How can we be sure that our money will be secure?"
A major demand among protesters is the restructure of the PSSC board to include more representation of workers, in order to ensure the funds are being invested for their benefit. 
"Currently, only five of 18 board members represent their interests. There are some board members who are investors and businessmen. How can we know, as workers, that they would not be directly or indirectly benefited from the investments of the funds?" Arouri said.
Jabril Saadah, the head researcher at the Ramallah-based Bisan Center for Research and Development, told Al Jazeera that these suspicions arise from a history of widespread corruption and nepotism practised by Palestinian leaders, many of whom have ties to some of the largest companies in Palestine.
Palestinian Labour Minister Mamoun Abu Shahla - who has become the focus of demonstrators' anger, with many calling for his resignation - has been accused by protesters of personal involvement in the selection of Bank of Palestine as the financial body to manage the social security funds, owing to his own personal ties with the bank, where he has previously served on the board of directors and continues to own stock.

Workers, meanwhile, told Al Jazeera that the first phase of the law should also cover other aspects of the society's needs, such as the implementation of unemployment insurance and healthcare. Abu Shahla said these benefits would come at later stages, but he added that there was no set timeframe for their future implementation, and that it would depend on the economic and political situation.
However, Palestinian workers believe these issues and reforms should have been addressed and implemented before the law went into effect, in order to build confidence in the system among employees in the occupied territory. Instead, they say that the new law leaves them facing an uncertain future.

Why Inequality?

According to a 2017 Oxfam report, the eight richest people in the world own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world. The report blamed aggressive wage restraint, tax dodging and the squeezing of producers by companies as the principal causes for the inequality.

A 2014 study by Princeton Professor, Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Professor Benjamin I. Page found that in the U.S., the developed nation with the highest degree of income inequality, public opinion has almost no effect on government, but the opinion of economic elites does.

“There is somewhat of a conflict between capitalism and democracy,” said Professor of Economics Robert G. Williams. “Particularly, when the inequalities of capitalism are in conflict with the egalitarian element of democracy. Everyone is supposed to be equal in democracy. As inequality becomes increasingly a problem, there is no way that is not going to undermine the democracy...Wealth inequality is transmitted from generation to generation,” Williams said. “What we are increasingly finding, is that the zipcode you grow up in, largely will influence what your economic prospects are.”

Many companies have revenues which exceed the revenues of nation states. Several multinational corporations now maintain revenues which exceed the GDP of states. According to data from the World Bank, Walmart’s revenue reached $482 billion in 2016. Poland’s GDP in 2016 was $470 billion. Exxon Mobil maintains a revenue almost as high as the GDP of Chile.

“In terms of international investment, corporations have the upper hand in any bargaining relationship, whether that’s a developed country or a less developed country.” said Professor of Political Science Ken Gilmore. “Basically, the companies hold an auction, where countries must bid against one another for their investments,” Gilmore said. “The countries who offer the most “freedom” are the ones who get the investment.”

https://www.guilfordian.com/worldnation/2018/11/16/global-income-gaps-continue/